End of 2021/22 season report card: Macarthur FC

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With the 2021/22 finals series underway, The Football Sack looks back at the sides who didn’t make the cut and Macarthur FC missed out by just one spot…

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Season Summary:

Macarthur’s start to the season exceeded expectations. Expectations that were rightfully very low considering the comical library of mishaps that preceded the opening round. 

A stack of players and even soon-to-be coach, Mark Milligan, ran for the hills as rumours arose that all was very unwell behind the scenes. They lost all four of their pre-season fixtures, conceding 17 goals; Newcastle Jets put six past them in their final friendly before the season proper.

To sign off an already painful list of embarrassing blows and shovel more coal into the anti-Macarthur train, Campbelltown Stadium looked like this:

In the early stages of the A-League Men season, however, the Bulls looked as competent on the pitch as any. Undefeated in their first five matches, the Bulls picked up 13 points from a possible 15.

This positive start would prevent any great suffering on the ladder when their form inevitably faltered, but could only carry them so far. Hit harder than most by the mid-season COVID nightmare, Macarthur stuttered their way to the season’s close. Never too long after remembering how to run, they would trip over their feet.

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A dismal run of three consecutive losses, during which they conceded nine goals, ensured their exclusion from the finals places.

Areas of Excellence: Bounce-back-ability and resilience

There is probably nothing shiny about Macarthur. A club with hefty ticket prices inhabiting a notoriously sub-par stadium in an area of New South Wales hardly crying out for a football team. On the pitch, however, the Bulls showed on multiple occasions their gritty and determined character. 

The finest example possibly coming against the Jets in round five. Both a goal and a player down after the sending off of goalkeeper Filip Kurto, Macarthur appeared down and out. A rare James Meredith goal in the 86th minute completed the most unlikely of turnarounds to end the game 2-1.

At other times in the season: they scored two goals in the last 15 minutes to draw with Western United, they overcame a two-goal deficit and went on to beat Perth Glory 4-2, and Craig Noone curled in this beauty to equalise against Central Coast Mariners with just seconds of normal time to play.

The personnel at Macarthur doesn’t afford them the beauty of tantalising, liquid football. It would almost be weird if it did. True to what you’d expect from a widely unpopular, working-class South-West Sydney side, most of their success this season can be attributed to their dogged and tireless approach.

Area of Improvement: Defensive solidity

At the time of writing Macarthur’s mid-season report card, the impressive defence figures that had assisted in their start to the season were just beginning to tip. After conceding just twice in those fruitful first five rounds, they conceded 12 in the next five.

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Come the end of the season and the Bulls hold the second-worst defensive record in the league, conceding 47 times across the course of the campaign. Beaten to bottom place by Wellington Phoenix (49), the team that finished just one spot above Macarthur and claimed the last of the finals positions.

The area hampered the least by the flock of talent that departed in the off-season was supposedly Macarthur’s defence. It has not panned out that way, and a tighter back line would have undoubtedly given them greater chances at obtaining a finals place.

Top Student: Ulises Dávila

Flashes of mercurial talent were all Macarthur fans had to hang on to when their new captain was injured against the Mariners in round four. When he returned, he brought the numbers with him.

Six goals after his stint on the sidelines took his tally to seven for the season, topping the goalscorers list for his club. His 70 times fouled, a mammoth number that will hardly surprise those that watched him, is higher than anyone else in the ALM this season. Remarkably, this is the third season in a row in which he has been the most fouled player in the league.

Collecting both the golden boot and player of the season trophies at awards night is a clear indicator of his place in the squad. An experienced leader off the pitch and exciting superstar on it, Dávila was a delight to watch this season.

Class Clown: Jordon Mutch

Macarthur’s loss of their captain, Milligan, was a huge one. The potential for a successful follow-up season hung largely on whether a replacement for their midfield general was found. Unfortunately, their replacement didn’t work out.

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Mutch played just 13 games for Western Sydney Wanderers last season but was able to score twice and get an assist. He played 23 games for the Bulls this season and was unable to record a single goal contribution. Of his 20 shots taken this season, only three were on target.

In the +/- statistics for Macarthur this season, a figure that displays the goals scored minus the goals conceded when each player is on the pitch, Mutch returns a -12. The joint-worst at the club.

For a player of Mutch’s status to have such little influence during his time on the field has been damning to Macarthur’s season. Should he stay for another year and attempt to earn his place under new management, hasty improvement will need to be seen.

Grade: C

Outlook

At the end of the day, no finals football means no party. To back up a semi-final appearance with a failure to even qualify cannot be seen as a success.

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However, Macarthur have faced more than their fair share of adversity throughout the campaign. Milicic employed not one, but two strikers to recreate Matt Derbyshire’s immensely dominant goal tally in their inaugural season, they both have struggled dearly for fitness.

The Bulls were also amongst the hardest-hit in terms of COVID-19, highlighted by the length of their enforced break. And, as Milicic would be sure to tell you in every post-match press conference, injuries have picked at them continuously.

With the small victory of finishing above both of their decorated neighbours and the promising recollection of their firecracker start to the season, Bulls fans can take some positives from what has been a bizarre instalment of the ALM.

Feature Image Credit: Macarthur FC

Statistics sourced from: Ultimate A-League & FBref 

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Tom Macraehttp://medium.com/@macraetomr23
Communications undergrad at Western Sydney University covering Macarthur FC in the 2021/22 season. Newcastle United. Jack Grealish fangirl.

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